I spend my evenings these days listening to a spa music playlist on Spotify in order to calm Jacob down and get him into a bedtime mindset, so you can take this for what you feel it’s worth…
Also, a ton of artists’ music below can be found in the links in this post.
I really don’t enjoy most rock or pop (or especially R&B) music today. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, I am convinced it’s doing more damage today than good. Hear me out on this and let’s go back to 1997…
Grunge (my fave) was winding down, pop was winding up, and I was a freshman in college. Near the end of my freshman year in 1997, “Freshman” from The Verve Pipe (and no The Verve was NOT the same band) came out. In the midst of chaos of living alone for the first time and struggling to maintain sanity among homework, finances, full time work, and a social life, this song grabbed “my feels” as it is said today and it moved me. Here was this pop alternative band, shoving emotion into the mix of my brother’s White Zombie and Quad City DJs favorites and it turned me on to the next wave of alternative like Third Eye Blind and Barenaked Ladies, both who still make great albums by the way. In fact, a girl that frequented our small apartment parties liked “Freshman” so much she listened to it over a dozen times in a row and nearly drove everyone else crazy one night.
I moved to St Paul, then back to South Dakota, then down to Iowa, and then back to Minneapolis. I didn’t know it yet, but I was lost and it was music driving me further into the black. I had all of this emotion, and I didn’t know how to channel it into something productive.
I had come back to Minneapolis to be in radio, and while I kept my music options open at school, I still thrived from artists like Nina Gordon (formerly of Veruca Salt), Eve 6, Nine Days, and other more sugary artists on 104.1 The Point outside of school.
One day, while listening to a U2 song for the zillionth time (it could have been any band, but I think it was U2), I turned to Zone 105 to hear New Found Glory and their song “Hit or Miss“. I was always a Blink 182 kind of guy, but this, THIS blew me away. My mix CDs of music stolen from Napster turned from sugary pop alternative and headed deep into to punk, and eventually to rock, and I began to see the benefit.
A few weeks later, a guy named Neil was nice enough to give me an internship at 93x, a rock radio station in Minnesota (even though I got lost finding the building…twice), and though I enjoyed some NIN and Marilyn Manson from time to time, I honestly didn’t understand of what some metal and hard rock can do for the soul.
After a few bar gigs, I went to and worked at my first concert, the 3 day rock juggernaut-concert called XFest. By then, I was listening to more rock, but IN PERSON, it was a completely different experience. While there, I snapped a picture with Wayne Static and went with him to see Cher’s son play in the band Deadsy, I talked with Douglas from Hoobastank, saw Corrosion of Conformity rock out, and saw the not-yet-shitty Nickelback play “Super Bon Bon” from Soul Coughing. Couple that with a healthy dose of alcohol, only a few hours of sleep spread across three days, and 19 cans of Red Bull in a day (yes, 19…I had no idea what it could do..it was new to me) and I was thrown headlong into metal and hard rock fandom. I also realized the power of some badass rock.
While the sugary rock, pop and rap of the time was triggering emotion like the pop and rap/r&b of today does with it’s listeners, rock/punk/metal taught me how to deal with those emotions. I could feel sadness bubbling up while listening to “Flower” by the Eels, but harness that and channel it into something really productive with “Forty Six & 2” from Tool and work hard or use it to build myself up before something stressful. I could be saddened by a breakup, but turn it into a fun night out by taking away the hurt with Taking Back Sunday or Deadsy.
Hard rock and metal has been pushed aside lately, and record execs are to blame. First, everyone had to cut out guitar solos (bad idea), then once Staind had a popular slow song, everyone like Nickelback, Hinder, and Stone Sour had to follow with slow songs. Then, it all just sucked. Metallica tried to revive things with St Anger, but that was a terrible try. Soon, people were sick of hearing bands that all sounded like they copied the worst part of Pearl Jam vocal styles:
Bands were no longer making driving rock madness that spoke to people and these listeners all turned to other forms of music. With music today, the listener has emotions evoked (I don’t feel it, but my daughter tells me about it), but there is nothing to channel it, so it becomes angst and unhappiness or it becomes loathing and anger. The messages today of random casual sex, the drug life, and trying to cheat to get by in life are absorbed by the listener rather than messages of how a relationship goes wrong (The Starting Line), dealing with life (Korn), and rebelling against what is beating you down (NIN or Limp Bizkit). I know some rock songs back then had messages similar to today’s music, but it wasn’t every song on every channel like it is today.
Many of the rock stars of yesterday were bullied, beaten down by life, came from less than desirable home lives, etc., and rather than blame someone else for their problems, they did something great with their lives. That doesn’t really happen today because the genre picks YouTube stars and teens that are groomed for pop or Canadian actors that can’t sing for their stars.
Rock also helped me find my way back to religion after losing touch with what I actually believed in. After being bored by typical church services, I took interest in my wife’s church when she told me it was more like a rock concert with a message baked in than a stuffy church service. I went. She was right (only time I will publicly admit that). I’ve been going ever since.
Channel 41 on XM is a nice throwback to the metal and hard rock of the late 90s and 2000s. It’s good stuff. They should play more of it on FM rock stations, but not slip into the mind numbing Top 40 “overplay everything” format. Bring back some good hard rock and maybe we’d be in a world where people could positively channel confusion, anger, and frustration instead of having a meltdown because they can’t deal with feelings. Maybe it’s driving bass or a lung shaking guitar crunch, but whatever it is, it’s missing from today’s music.
What about country music? Well, nothing has ever been wrong with country. It has sadness, wild times, happiness and some anger all built in. If I can’t find rock, country is my next best option. Just no Kip Moore. That guy’s worse than Nickelback.